Queens composting surpasses old opt-in program, but still has a long way to go – Streetsblog New York City

Queens is getting organized.

Mayor Adams’ recently launched curbside compost collection for all boroughs worldwide is already doing better than its predecessor’s opt-in program, but residents still have a long way to go to fill their brown bins with more. food and garden waste.

The Sanitation Department picked up more than a million pounds of organics in Queens in the first two weeks since Adams rolled out weekly curbside pickup at every address in the borough, the chief said. from the agency last week.

“We feel really good about this,” DSNY Commissioner Jessica Tisch said on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show October 18. “The plan and the hope is to be able to expand to other parts of the city, but we really want to get it right first in Queens before we expand.”

The initiative began on October 3, allowing every resident of Queens to have their organics collected each week without having to register – a change from former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s program which only covered a few neighborhoods. .

But it’s not perfect: the million pounds DSNY has collected in the first two weeks is just a tiny fraction of the piles of organic material that households in Queens throw away every day (and shouldn’t not). Borough residents go through an estimated 2.2 million pounds of organics every day, while the new curbside collection program captured an average of 71,400 pounds of organics, just 3% of what is possible.

However, Queensites averaged about twice the weight of organic waste per community ward compared to the seven areas in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx enrolled in the old program, according to a DSNY spokesperson.

“It’s pretty amazing how successful a program can be when it hits all the addresses,” Belinda Mager said.

A civically active resident of Queens who has been composting for 20 years said the city needs to better educate the public about the importance of separating organics and make it mandatory, as it already does with recycling.

“If it’s mandatory and required – and you teach people how to do it – it will start to hang, but if you keep starting it and stopping it, people will get confused,” said John Maier, a resident of Ridgewood and staff member of the Queens Community Board. 5.

“We released ours the first week it was available,” Maier said. “Not enough of my neighbors put it out though.”

Commissioner Tisch said New Yorkers aren’t ready for it yet, since only half of the city’s residents have ever had access to a curbside organic waste collection program.

“Separating food waste requires a complex cultural shift that cannot, at first, be strictly punitive,” Tisch said during a June 15 Council hearing. “You need to give people voluntary access to curbside food waste collection and allow them to build muscle memory of separating their food waste before considering mandatory programs.”

Organic materials that end up in landfills rot and emit methane, a very harmful greenhouse gas. When the city separates the waste, authorities can convert it into nutritious compost to power city parks. It also reduces the cost of shipping all that material to dumps outside the five boroughs.

“It’s not like DSNY isn’t trying, I just think they should talk more about the cost to the city of burying this waste,” Maier said. “We could give back to the earth rather than bury our shit under the rug.”

Chairman of the Board Sanitation Committee Sandy Nurse (D-Brooklyn) said the city also needs to make it clear that organics collection is here to stay.

“It’s going to take a minute for people to integrate their daily rhythm of life and their week that they can separate their food scraps, [and say] “I can fully invest in it because I know it’s here to stay,” said Nurse, who also founded the food waste composting and transport service by bike. BK ROT before standing for election.

Queens’ current pilot program is set to shut down for the winter on December 23 after 59 days of operation, before restarting in the spring

Former mayor Bill de Blasio halted pickups for nearly a year amid 2020 Covid-19 budget cuts, and only brought it back last year for a handful of community councils in largely neighborhoods. richest in the city.

An advice invoice starting in April — with a non-vetoing majority — would create citywide organic waste collection programs for all residential buildings, and Nurse wants the law to force DSNY’s hand to go above and beyond. beyond the pilots.

“Standardizing it, having it happen all the time every week, without starting or stopping – a cohesive program that is codified in law and to be executed by the DSNY, is in my opinion the most important step in increasing the turnout,” she said.

It’s up to President Adrienne Adams to bring the bill to a vote, and she’s one of 42 members who have signed the proposal. A spokeswoman for the speaker said she would push the bill forward as part of a larger zero-waste package “soon”.

“The President has committed to a set of zero waste bills passing soon, and the Council is currently working on that,” Walter Chi said.

City Hall spokeswoman Kate Smart said Mayor Adams is “reviewing” the bill.

Wiley C. Thompson